NHS pay deal: busting the myths

You can’t have missed the amount of opinion being shared about the NHS pay deal for England. In fact, it’s likely that you’ve been talking to members about it and finding that some of what you’re hearing isn’t consistent.

The RCN is recommending that members accept the deal, but incorrect information doesn’t help anyone make a fair judgement about what’s on offer.

We’ve picked out some of the most frequently recounted myths to help you put the facts straight.

pay myth 1

Our campaign to scrap the cap saw the 1% cap on nursing pay removed in October 2017. However, the campaign had a more far reaching impact as it positioned the subject of NHS pay high on the political agenda. Our campaigning opened the door to a fully funded NHS pay deal.

When negotiations began, items such as unsocial hours, sick pay and annual leave were all on the table. The RCN successfully protected these and looked for ways to get as much money into members’ pockets as possible during a time of austerity.

This has come through a proposed combination of a percentage pay increase, a cash uplift and contract reform. 

Our goal was to secure an increase for every member wherever they are on the pay scales in each year of the three year deal and overall at the end of the three years. We’ve achieved that and negotiated a pay rise higher than the 1% that NHS staff in England have received for the past eight years.

RCN busting myths

Most staff at the top of their band will get a 6.5% pay rise over the three years.

Getting as much money as possible for these experienced staff to help persuade them to stay in the NHS was a priority going into the negotiations. Staff who are promoted will get to the top of their new pay band quicker. 

Members told us they were unhappy it takes so long to reach the top of some pay bands. We made sure this was part of the deal. The deal removes overlaps between bands so those in higher bands won’t be paid less than someone in a job that evaluates lower. 

The deal positions staff for higher earnings potential and faster progression. Different people will benefit differently from this deal, but this has been done  to create a fairer system for the future.

pay myth 3

 Negotiations have ended. The consultation on the deal isn’t a chance to renegotiate it. If the package is rejected there’s no guarantee that the Government will impose the proposals so at that point there’ll be no pay offer for anyone. Instead we’ll continue with the pay review body (PRB) process which could revert back to the 1% increases we’ve seen previously. We would lose the £4.2 billion of extra funding currently on offer.

pay myth 4

The official government measure of inflation (CPIH) fell to 2.3% in March and is expected to fall for the life of the deal. If members accept these arrangements they will do so in the knowledge that their pay will rise by a minimum of 6.5%. This is a guaranteed rise when Brexit is likely to bring more financial uncertainty and public sector austerity.

pay myth 5

Unsocial hours payments have been protected. For staff in bands 1 to 3 the percentage rates are decreased but the value of the payments remain the same. This is because the rates of pay in these groups have risen from £15,404 to £17,460. 

Currently, someone on the top of band 2 will earn an additional £4 for working one unsocial hour on a Saturday. It will remain at £4 but as their salary will have  gone up, £4 is a smaller percentage of their new higher salary. 

This group of staff have also retained the benefit of unsocial hours paid while off sick – removed for everyone else in 2013. The rates of unsocial hours payments for staff in bands 4-9 won’t change.

pay myth 6

This is a vote of RCN members working in the NHS in England to decide if they wish to accept the pay proposals or not. It is not a vote on industrial action.

Voting on a pay deal does not have legal restrictions as one for industrial action would have, so whether we call it a consultation, vote or ballot, the process would be exactly the same.  

pay myth 7

The NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) deals with annual pay uplifts and not redesigning the pay structure – that’s for negotiation within the NHS Agenda for Change Staff Council. 

We were asked by the Government and the PRB to hold these talks with NHS employers and we’ve kept the review body informed throughout our discussions. 

The review body has continued with its normal process of gathering evidence from all interested parties, so if the deal is rejected in June, the review body process will continue and the PRB will deliver a report.

pay myth 8

This is the biggest pay rise for NHS staff in England in 10 years. Most will get at least 6.5% (except very top pay points 8C, D and 9). Some will get up to 29% at a time when inflation is falling too. Starting salaries will rise by £3,000 and nurses with three years’ experience get £6,000 during the deal. 

pay myth 9

Someone on pay point 26 at the bottom of band 7 will see this rise in their pay over the three years.

pay myth 10

Members have said that it takes too long to get to the top of a pay band – in some cases it can take seven years (see band 5). 

Shorter bands with fewer increments actually means staff reach the top of their band quicker and the jumps between incremental points will be larger.

pay myth 11

 There’s no evidence for this claim and the RCN believes the new proposals will do both. They’ll give most staff at the top of their bands now a 6.5% rise. Others will see their pay rise higher as they progress.

pay deal myth 12

For staff in the final salary arrangements and near retirement the rise will increase their ‘final pensionable pay’ figure. Staff in the CARE scheme will also benefit as their pensionable pay will increase.

Pay myth 13

 You won’t. The RCN successfully protected annual leave allowance. 

pay myth 14

Higher cost area payments will increase in line with the increase to base pay.

pay myth 15

If the deal is accepted it will be backdated to 1 April and will be in your pay packets from this summer.

pay myth 16

The new sickness policy hasn’t been negotiated yet. There’ll be a review of the absence management agreement but your sickness pay entitlement won’t change.

Find out more

To find out more about the deal and how it affects nursing staff, visit www.rcn.org.uk/nursing-pay

For full details of the NHS pay deal for England, and to access the pay calculator, visit www.nhspay.org

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